Last spring, my son managed to smash his head into the corner of a bookcase, requiring staples. Upon returning home from urgent care, with his head wrapped in gauze, he gleefully declared that he was “King Gauze.” I seized on the moment–finally, here was my chance to get him involved in my passion: playwriting.
I belong to a playwriting group that sometimes meets at our home. Therefore, my son has known the majority of my fellow playwrights since he was born. And, as he’s gotten older, he’s wanted to stay downstairs to listen to the work being read out loud, none of which would be appropriate for his ears. He has been frustrated by this and by the fact that I won’t let him read any of my work, either.
But with the emergence of “King Gauze,” we agreed that we would write a play the next day about King Gauze in Gauzeland. And so we did. Not a whole play but three scenes. His cast of characters was enormous and grew as we continued to write. The play took place at the birth of Prince Gauze. King and Queen Gauze were being visited by the whole town, along with some weavers (only later did it occur to me that the weavers idea came from “The Emperor Has No Clothes”). My son dictated the dialogue and I showed him how we were writing stage directions and how different characters said their lines.
Eventually, I suggested we needed some conflict. His eyes brightened and Mr. Bad Guy entered, placing a curse upon Prince Gauze (“Just like in ‘Sleeping Beauty’!” he said). Fortunately, soldiers were immediately written into the scene to the kill Mr. Bad Guy and lift the curse.
As we wrote the play, my son was fully distracted from his head wound and, instead, was extremely excited that he was finally getting to write a play with me. I later mused to my theater friends how I had forgotten how healing playwriting could be. He wore his gauze crown with great pride until he was able to get the staples out, at which point he declared he was no longer King Gauze.
I, however, was thrilled that we had managed to capture this fully imagined character on paper.
Several months later, my playwriting group was meeting at my home for the first time in a long time. The kids were ecstatic. They wanted to know exactly who was coming, started guessing the order of their arrival, and squealed with delight each time the doorbell rang. They were always allowed to hang out with everyone until it was time to start or until it was time to get ready for bed, whichever came first. On this night, my son suddenly went to his writing folder, then looked at me tentatively. I realized what he wanted to do: he wanted to show the group his play.
I nodded and he very excitedly brought it out, quickly cast it, and my playwriting group read his script aloud. With the cast of thousands, we all played multiple parts, including my husband. My daughter decided she would be Prince Gauze, the infant child (who had no lines). My son read Mr. Bad Guy and served as the understudy for Prince Gauze when my daughter lost interest. He even climbed in one of the other playwrights’ laps when the baby was handed off (the playwright was a very good sport about it).
When the scenes were done being read, we applauded and he beamed with pride. He and his sister took bows. He had finally worked his way into my playwriting group, even though he still couldn’t hear our work. He is, however, now trying to convince me to write a play that he can read.